Former Intelligence Officer Convicted of Attempted Espionage Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison
SALT LAKE CITY – A former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, who pleaded guilty in March to attempting to communicate, deliver, or transmit information involving the national defense of the United States to the People’s Republic of China, will serve 10 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson imposed the sentence Tuesday afternoon in Salt Lake City.
Ron Rockwell Hansen, 60, of Syracuse, Utah, was arrested June 2, 2018, on his way to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, Wash., as he was preparing to board a flight to China while in possession of SECRET military information.
Hansen pleaded guilty to the lead count of a 15-count indictment returned in June 2018, charging him with attempt to gather or deliver defense information, acting as an agent of a foreign government, bulk cash smuggling, structuring monetary transactions, and smuggling goods from the United States. On the motion of federal prosecutors, the court dismissed the remaining counts of the indictment at the sentencing.
“One of three ex-US intelligence officers recently convicted of acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China, Ron Rockwell Hansen received hundreds of thousands of dollars for betraying his country and former colleagues,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. “These cases show the breadth of the Chinese government’s espionage efforts and the threat they pose to our national security. Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country’s most closely held secrets and the National Security Division will continue to relentlessly pursue justice against those who violate this oath.”
“The Chinese government continues to attempt to identify and recruit current and former members of the United States intelligence community. This is a very troubling trend. These individuals must remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity. The Hansen case is an example of what will happen to those who violate the public’s trust and risk our national security by disclosing classified information,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today.
“Ron Hansen was willing to betray his oath and his country for financial gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office. "This case brings to light that not all spies are foreign adversaries. Insider threats pose a significant national security risk, and the FBI will continue to aggressively investigate those who put our country and citizens at risk.”
Hansen retired from the U.S. Army as a Warrant Officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence. He speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian, according to court documents. Upon retiring from active duty, DIA hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006. Hansen held a Top Secret clearance for many years and signed several non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at DIA and as a government contractor.
As Hansen admitted in the plea agreement, in early 2014, agents of a Chinese intelligence service targeted him for recruitment, and he began meeting with them regularly in China. During these meetings, the agents described to Hansen the type of information that would interest Chinese intelligence. Hansen stipulated that during the course of his relationship with Chinese intelligence, he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for information he provided them.
Between May 24, 2016, and June 2, 2018, Hansen admitted he solicited national security information from an intelligence case officer working for the DIA. Hansen admitted knowing that the Chinese intelligence services would find the information valuable, and he agreed to act as a conduit to sell that information to the Chinese. He advised the DIA case officer how to record and transmit classified information without detection, and how to hide and launder any funds received as payment for classified information. He admitted he now understands that the DIA case officer reported his conduct to the DIA and subsequently acted as a confidential human source for the FBI.
Hansen admitted meeting with the DIA case officer on June 2, 2018 and receiving individual documents containing national defense information that he had previously solicited. The documents he received were classified. The documents included national security information related to U.S. military readiness in a particular region -- information closely held by the federal government. Hansen did not possess a security clearance nor did he possess a need to know the information contained in the materials.
As a part of his plea agreement, Hansen admitted he reviewed the documents, queried the case officer about their contents, and took written notes which contained information determined to be classified. He advised the DIA case officer that he would remember most of the details about the documents he received that day and would conceal notes about the material in the text of an electronic document he would prepare at the airport before leaving for China. He admitted he intended to provide the information he received to the agents of the Chinese Intelligence Service with whom he had been meeting. He also admitted knowing that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.
As a part of the plea agreement, Hansen has agreed to forfeit property acquired from or traceable to his offense, including property used to facilitate the crime.
The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert A. Lund, Karin Fojtik, Mark K. Vincent and Alicia Cook of the District of Utah, and Trial Attorneys Patrick T. Murphy, Matthew J. McKenzie and Adam L. Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington assisted with this case.
The prosecution is the result of an investigation by special agents of the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army Counterintelligence, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.